Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Our Message of Peace

Check out the summer issue of Yogini, you might see some friendly faces somewhere in there!
Yep, that's us! The magazine asked us to design and make a T-shirt with our message of peace for the world. Gwen and I knew almost immediately what our message would be.

Be Peace

"Be Peace" is so simple and catchy that it runs the risk of just sounding like a new-age catchphrase, along the lines of "be here now" or "it's all one, dude." I had an English professor who said that the best poems are those that are bigger on the inside than on the outside, and I think this phrase is the same.

Before I go on, please go to this site and watch the video if your computer can play flash. It is a short feature with narration by Thich Nhat Hanh and his philosophy about being peace. Thich Nhat Hanh is the one who taught us this phrase and despite our efforts we couldn't give him a shout out in the Yogini article.

I think that almost anyone you ask will say that they want to change the world for the better. It's easy to get wrapped up in the activist parts of improving the world, things like signing peace treaties, building wells with clean water, destroying nuclear weapons, or protecting the environment. At my university it was almost impossible to walk across campus without getting a leaflet about how you could join a protest, sign a petition, or boycott a product. These things are certainly good, but from a buddhist perspective, not very important.

Buddhism is strange like that, things are always opposite of what you expect. All these things we try to do to bring peace into the world will not be much help unless we are peaceful within ourselves.

When I was an aid worker I noticed that the volunteers who enacted the most long lasting change in their communities were the ones who seemed to have themselves sorted out. Many people, including myself, tried to just push projects through, and the results were never pretty. Maybe I will go into it more in another blog, but basically a project that required a lot of doing by the volunteer ended up neglected, misunderstood, and ultimately unsuccesful. However, there were some volunteers, who had something that made their communities trust and respect them. It was something that translates across languages and cultures, and that is a solid, quiet, sense of inner peace. Volunteers who were really there in the community, not running around trying to fix everything, got so much more done! And it didn't require a lot of outward effort. They didn't make peace, they were peace.

We can't all go do aid work in Africa, nor do we need to. A peaceful person spreads peace to every person they encounter, just as an angry person spreads ill will. So if you are the kind of person that wants to make positive change in the world, forget all those protests and petitions for a while, and concentrate on really being ok with yourself. Yoga and meditation will help! But the most important thing is to appreciate the moment you are in and the people you are around, without striving to make things the way you think they should be. That's the definition of peace, and it's not something you can do, it's something you can BE!


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